The sacred portals of Badrinath shrine in Garhwal Himalayas were reopened on Sunday after a gap of six months amid thechanting of Vedic hymns and elaborate rituals.
With the opening of Badrinath shrine, the Char Dham Yatra began in full swing as the other three shrines in the circuit, including Gangotri, Yamunotri and Kedarnath were thrown open to the pilgrims last week.
The doors of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines were opened for pilgrims on Tuesday while Kedarnath temple was opened on Friday. The gates of the shrine, located at a height of over 3100m were opened at 5.15am after traditional rituals, said Bhuwan Chandra Uniyal, the chief administrator of the temple.
The portals were opened in the presence of chief minister Harish Rawat, his cabinet colleague Dinesh Dhane, police and temple committee officials, he said.
Chief minister Harish Rawat, who earlier in the week had conducted an inspection of all the routes, said Uttarakhand was safe as the devastating earthquake that rocked neighbouring Nepal and parts of India had no impact of the state. “There is no impact of quake on the Char Dham pilgrimage and my government is committed to make the pilgrimage more comfortable and memorable,” Rawat said.
The CM said district officials have been asked to keep a close watch on the arrangements to ensure smooth functioning of the pilgrimage.
Elaborate arrangements have been made for the safety of pilgrims this year in view of the flash flood in 2013 in which hundreds of people were killed and thousands went missing.
The administration is on maximum alert for any eventuality with state disaster response force personnel deployed in the slide-prone and sensitive areas.
The four shrines are closed annually during winter for six months when they become snowbound and inaccessible. During the six-month yatra season, hundreds of thousands of people from across the country and abroad undertake a pilgrimage to the shrines considered central to the economy of Garhwal Himalayas.
Despite a chill in the air, thousands of devotees flocked to the temple in the wee hours to pay their obeisance, said Rajendra Singh Bhandari, the local MLA.
“I have never seen such a huge number of devotees on the opening day and it augurs well for the well being of the area,” he said, adding that more than 14.300 enthusiastic pilgrims visited the shrine on Sunday.
Shubha Singh from Delhi, who had come to the shrine, said: “I have come to pay my obeisance to Badrinath temple before also but this year it is great to see and feel the majestic beauty of the area with the snow covering the area.”